Saturday, June 20, 2009

"There's something about theatre in a confined space that's quite special" Niamh says "- anyone jaundiced with lavish traditional productions should try this - five quid for a seat on the sofa and great entertainment." We were at the double bill of one-act plays UPSTAIRS at the LANSDOWN, a tiny pub theatre in Clifton, more like voyeurs than audience. Both pieces were energetically acted and directed by students from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School - yuppy humour in About a girl who... by Stephen Vagg and anarchic hilarity in 1% Inspiration.
Written and directed by Lars Harald Gathe, this is a brilliant & absurd 'deconstruction and reinvention' of Ibsen's Ghosts, the famously "dirty deed done in public" that shocked the 19th century theatre-going world. Especial praise to Jack Holden as Osvald and Nick Blakeley as assistant Harry, chronically confused, who had hoped "this was going to be something real." But Al the manic Director is changing the concept. A talking badger, a buffet, a song and dance routine with no actors – they’re out to lunch, literally until it chokes them. Al sees his role, apart from sitting on the red sofa staring at the wall, as a calming influence: he counters Mrs Alving's script complaints ( "When you look at life, everything is a bad translation") and consoles baffled Harry: “My grandmother told me this on her deathbed: It’s all useless. It’s all a waste of time.” Not this though- a thoroughly enjoyable night of new writing and emerging talent.

Eclecticism means never having to say you're copying... Last year Alison and I went down to Brighton to check out their (hugely funded) Small Wonder lit-fest event and came back fired with enthusiasm to recreate the event, better, unfunded, ourselves. Hence was born Frome FLASH FICTION Friday, story-telling crossed with slam, agreed by all who crowded into the Merlin foyer last night as fabulous fun. The lucky-dip format kept tension high but no-one overran their allotted 4 minutes so we had time for everyone who wanted to read.
Our judges – publisher Barry Cunningham, novelist Debby Holt, and lyricist Brian Madigan – had the tough task of on-the-spot marking so many excellent pieces to a nail-biting finale with two writers recalled to the mic: Jeremy Gibson and Gordon Graft, both best-known for their poetry. A swift secret ballot resulted in FFFF logo teeshirts for both and the £40 prize to Jeremy for his wicked black comedy Happy Endings. Congratulations to all 21 writers brave enough to stand up and be voted, and to create such a fantastic evening of entertainment.

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